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G20 urged to avert global disaster

02 September 2009, Press releases


London, Friday-Saturday 4-5 September 2009

Finance ministers from G20 group of the world's most powerful economies meet in London

"Stop letting money rule the world" call by campaigners in G20 leaders' masks and suits, backed by money-themed music

Activists warn of job losses and climate chaos

10.30-11.15 am BST, Friday 4 September 2009

North junction between Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe, London EC3 3DQ‎ (view of City landmark the Gherkin skyscraper)

Campaigners from the Put People First coalition, in G20 leaders' masks and suits, hold cash-laden throne, warning "Stop letting money rule the world". The activists, backed by money-themed music, will then go on a walking tour of City institutions which the coalition blames for the crisis along with the G20 leaders.

Protestors wearing G20 leaders' masks and suits next week (Friday, 4 September) will call for new policies to protect the livelihoods of millions of people amid the growing world economic crisis. (see attached briefing)

Campaigners from the coalition Put People First, representing over 10 million people, will hold aloft a throne laden with huge bags of cash and unfurl a banner calling on the G20 to "Stop letting money rule the world", backed by money-themed music.

The protest will come as British chancellor Alistair Darling and other finance ministers begin two-day London talks in the run-up to the G20 leaders' summit on the crisis in Pittsburgh on 24-25 September.

The coalition says that by sticking to the free market practices which caused the global slump, the G20 would condemn millions more people to unemployment and condemn the planet to devastating climate change.

The International Labour Organisation estimates 239 million people worldwide will be jobless this year - up a third compared to the 2007 level - with youth unemployment rising by up to 18 million to 90 million.

But the coalition says such job losses can be avoided by new economic policies designed to put people before corporate profits.

Put People First calls for a crackdown on tax havens. Britain loses an estimated £100 billion a year in tax dodges - enough to double funds for the health service. And unpaid tax costs the developing world £250 billion a year.

The coalition is also demanding greater investment in public services, new jobs through a green global economy and steep emission cuts for developed nations at the UN summit in Copenhagen later this year.

John Hilary, executive director at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: "The G20 has done nothing to address the root causes of the global economic crisis. Despite the fact that lax regulation of banks led to the financial meltdown, G20 leaders are now calling for more deregulation of financial markets through the Doha round of world trade talks. It is time to call an end to the free market fundamentalism which has caused so much poverty and suffering in the world."

Jubilee Debt Campaign director Nick Dearden said: "The financial system has delivered economic and environmental chaos. No wonder that people and governments around the world are demanding change. But change that works for all countries and people will only come when all countries and people are involved in setting the rules. We need a radical democratisation of the economic and financial system - a global economy of the people, by the people, for the people."

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: "The recession isn't over for the millions of people here and around the world who are without jobs or worried about losing them. There is more to be done by the world's leaders and finance ministers if we are to build a sustainable recovery with decent work for all. Getting back to business as usual isn't good enough because it just means another recession round the corner."

Asad Rehman, senior climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "Developed nations are responsible for most of the carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution - and have grown very rich in doing so. Developing nations are far smaller per capita polluters, yet many of them are at the forefront of the devastating consequences of climate change. Rich industrialised countries must stop playing Russian roulette with the future of the planet and make a clear commitment to compensate poorer nations for the full costs of adapting to climate change, and fund the transition to low carbon infrastructure in the developing world."


  • After the picture/audio/interview opportunity, campaigners in masks and suits, backed by money-themed music, will tour City institutions which the coalition blames for the crisis along with the G20 leaders. Activists will meet outside Liverpool Street rail station next to McDonalds, 50 Liverpool Street London London EC2M 7PD. Tour stops include: Royal Bank of Scotland, 250 Bishopsgate, EC2M4 AA. ETF Securities, 2 London Wall Buildings London, London EC2M 5UU. European Climate Exchange, 62 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AW. International Financial Services London, 29-30 Cornhill, London EC3V 3NF. Barclays Bank, 54 Lombard Street, London EC3P 3AH. Willis Building, 51 Lime Street, London EC3M 7DQ.
  • Put People First includes over 100 development charities, trade unions, environmental, faith and anti-poverty groups.


Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728Nick Dearden, Jubilee Debt Campaign director (+44) (0)20 7324 4722 (+44) (0)7932 335464
Liz Chinchen, head of TUC European Union and international relations (+44) (0)20 7467 1325 or (+44) (0)7788 715261
Neil Verlander, Friends of the Earth press officer (+44) (0)20 7566 1649 or (+44) (0)7712 843209
Kate Blagojevic, World Development Movement press officer (+44) (0)20 7820 4913 or (+44) (0)7711 875345
Jesse Griffiths, Bretton Woods Project coordinator (+44) (0)20 7561 7546 or (+44) (0)7968 041747

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Tags: campaigns | financial crisis


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Members of South African social movement set to visit UK

27 August 2009, Latest news

This week members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM), a shack-dweller movement based in Durban, South Africa and a War on Want partner organisation, will travel to the UK for a series of workshops, actions and talks.

A leading South African social movement fighting for the rights of displaced shack dwellers, ABM will be traveling both to London and Manchester for a range of exciting events beginning this week. Among the events that ABM will take part in are a panel discussion on the provision of services in Jacob Zuma's South Africa and a Climate Camp workshop on the impact of the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Olympics on local communities. A complete list of events can be found below and at the organisation's website.

ABM in the UK

Event: The Right to Stay Put 

When: Friday 28 and Saturday 29 August, 10.00-17.00
Where: University of Manchester


Workshop: Climate Camp workshop with Corporate Watch - Olympics and World Cup

When: Sunday 30 August, 16.30-18.00
Where: To be announced

Panel discussion: Will Zuma deliver? The struggle for basic services in South Africa

When: Wednesday 2 September, 18.00-20.00
Where: Khalili lecture theatre, SOAS

Event: Benefit night at the Belgrade Road Social Centre

When: Friday 4 September, 18.00-02.00
Where: The Belgrade Road Social Centre, Dalston

Public Meeting: London Coalition Against Poverty

When: Saturday 5 September, 3.00-5.30
Where: Navarino Mansions Community Hall, Dalston Lane

For general information about this visit by Abahlali baseMjondolo please contact Matt Birkinshaw

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Tags: informal economy | overseas work | south africa | world cup


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Brown pressed to tax banks for poor

27 August 2009, Press releases

Activists welcome call for Tobin tax

The anti-poverty charity War on Want today demanded that British prime minister Gordon Brown acts on backing for a tax on foreign currency transactions by Lord Turner, chairman of the Finance Services Authority.

Executive director John Hilary said: "War on Want welcomes Lord Turner's support for a Tobin tax to curb bank profits and bonuses. As well as restraining bank excesses, such a tax could generate billions for developing countries to use in the fight against poverty. We call on Gordon Brown to implement this tax as an urgent measure amid the growing world economic crisis."

A currency transactions tax at 0.005% on the four major currencies of sterling, the euro, the US dollar and the Japanese yen would generate £20 billion annually, according to research published by War on Want and the United Nations University.

A similar tax on sterling alone would generate £3 billion a year.

In the last decade War on Want has led the campaign for a Tobin tax.

It is named after the American economist James Tobin, who first proposed the tax over 30 years ago.

Hilary chairs the Stamp Out Poverty campaign, successor to the Tobin Tax Network.

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Tags: campaigns | tax dodging | tobin tax


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Noisy protest outside the opening of new Bristol Primark

20 August 2009, Previous events

On Thursday 13 August, War on Want joined other labour rights protestors in a demonstration outside the opening of the massive new Primark store in Bristol.

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Persecuted by the government, informal workers in Malawi take a stand

20 August 2009, Latest news

Last week the repression of street traders in Malawi turned violent, as municipal officials in the city of Blantyre burned down vending stalls at a popular market. The Malawi Union for the Informal Sector (MUFIS), a War on Want partner organisation, is helping these informal workers gain compensation for their losses - and challenging the systematic persecution of those living on the margins of society.

On the morning of 11 August, street traders in the city of Blantyre in Malawi discovered that their stalls at a main city market had been burned to the ground by city officials. The stalls were the main source of income for these workers, who are part of the country's informal economy, a growing sector which supports millions of Malawians. The majority of the stalls that were set alight were run by women and youth with few job prospects.

Since adopting a series of liberal trade policies in the 1990s, Malawi's economy has suffered. Unable to compete with foreign imports, the Malawian industrial sector virtually collapsed, thrusting millions of workers into the informal economy, where they sell everything from handmade clothing to spare motor parts. Only 12% of the Malawian labour force is currently employed in the formal sector.

The workers' rights group MUFIS was founded in 2001 to support the rapidly growing number of workers in the informal economy. Without formal representation or bargaining power, many informal workers were being deprived of their basic rights and faced constant harassment. Through their national mobilisation campaign, MUFIS has grown considerably since its founding. The group now has 52 branches across Malawi and represents 6,500 workers. In addition to training street traders on their rights, MUFIS has also developed a platform for disenfranchised workers to express their concerns to policymakers.

In the days since the fire at Blantrye market, MUFIS officials have called on the government to compensate informal workers for their losses. MUFIS is also demanding protection for all informal workers from health hazards as well as acts of violence from government officials. War on Want stands by MUFIS's call for the protection of street traders, and expresses its support for all Malawian informal workers fighting for their rights.

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Tags: informal economy | overseas work


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Palestinian activist speaks about the illegal Separation Wall

14 August 2009, Latest news

War on Want spoke to Nasir Samara, a 28-year-old member of the Bil'in popular committee, on the day that Stop the Wall Campaign had taken Naomi Klein, the award-winning political journalist and author of The Shock Doctrine, to one of their weekly demonstrations.

In June 2009 War on Want visited Bil'in, a Palestinian village in the West Bank which has lost 60% of its land to the Israeli Occupation and is threatened with further land confiscation due to the construction of the illegal Separation Wall. The Bil'in popular committee, an activist group that works with Stop the Wall Campaign, a War on Want partner, organises weekly demonstrations against the Wall.

These rallies are regularly met with tear gas and sometimes live ammunition from the Israeli forces. In April 2009 an unarmed protestor was killed during a demonstration, and many more continue to be injured or detained. In early August several youths were abducted in night raids conducted by the Israeli forces. (For more information about Bil'in, visit the popular committee's website.)

Stop the Wall Campaign works with over 50 grassroots popular committees, organising demonstrations and other non-violent political actions to protest against the ongoing illegal construction of the Separation Wall in the West Bank. For more information visit Stop the Wall's website.

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Tags: conflict zones | fighting occupation


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Defying regime, thousands take to the streets in Honduras

13 August 2009, Latest news

On what was a historic day in Honduras, many thousands of people gathered in Freedom Park in San Pedro Sula on 11 August to voice their opposition to the military coup.

Among the 30,000 men, women and children protesting against the coup were members of the women's collective Codemuh, a leading rights group and War on Want partner organisation.

Police forces violently cracked down on protestors as the rally entered its second day, injuring many of those who had been gathering peacefully. At a rally in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, police attacked hundreds of protestors, including a child who died from his injuries.

Codemuh has been taking part in protests against the coup since President Manuel Zelaya was forcibly removed from office by the military in June. War on Want stands in solidarity with its partner Codemuh, and supports its peaceful efforts to restore democracy to Honduras.

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Tags: overseas work | sweatshops & plantations


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Plans for self-regulation of UK mercenaries slammed following killings in Iraq

10 August 2009, Press releases

NEWS HOOK Monday, 10 August 2009 -- Reports that a security contractor working for British private military company ArmorGroup shot dead two colleagues in Iraq

Charity calls for tough legislation to curb abuses

Today War on Want demanded that the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband scrap proposals for UK private military companies to police themselves or risk further killings in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The warning follows reports that a security contractor working for British private military company ArmorGroup shot dead two colleagues, one Australian and one British, and injured an Iraqi in Baghdad.

In a public consultation, which concluded in July, the UK government rejected all the available regulatory options for private military and security companies and recommended self-regulation for the industry despite calls from British MPs on the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee for strict curbs on these firms.

War on Want has spearheaded the campaign for tough legislation, including a ban on mercenaries' use in combat and combat support.

Ruth Tanner, Campaigns and Policy Director, War on Want said "These killings are a reminder of the havoc which private military and security companies have wreaked in Iraq over the past six years. The British government has responded by suggesting that mercenaries police themselves leaving civilians in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq exposed to further abuse."

The charity points to the hundreds of human rights abuses which have involved UK and US private armies in Iraq and Afghanistan. These include:

  • the wounding of two Iraqi civilians when mercenaries from the UK company Erinys International fired on a cab near Kirkuk.
  • mercenaries with the US firm Blackwater, now renamed Xe, shooting at and killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.
  • mercenaries working for the NATO coalition shooting the Kandahar police chief and nine of his officers in Afghanistan.
Over the last three years, the UK has spent more than £148 million on contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

ArmorGroup has been one of the British Government's favoured private military contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


War on Want led the call for control over private military companies when the charity launched its report Corporate Mercenaries.

  • A year later, War on Want stepped up its drive after the Blackwater and Erinys shootings.
  • In December 2007, the charity published the briefing paper Getting Away with Murder. It cited reporters of hundreds of human rights violations by mercenary troops in Iraq to strengthen its campaign for curbs, including a ban on mercenaries' use in combat.
  • In February last year War on Want launched a legal challenge on the British government over its failure to ensure democratic control over private armies.
  • Last July the charity accused the UK of blocking regulation after a document, acquired under freedom of information laws, revealed ministers went close to launching pre-legislative consultation.

CONTACT: Ruth Tanner, War on Want (+44) (0)20 7549 0583 or (+44) (0)7811469547

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Tags: campaigns | corporations & conflict | private armies


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Brown must go on a supermarket sweep

05 August 2009, Comment is Free

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons oppose it, but we need an ombudsman scheme to stop retailers' abuse of power

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Tags: campaigns | supermarkets & sweatshops


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Facing repression from pro-coup forces, Honduran women’s collective calls for public action

05 August 2009, Latest news

More than a month after the forced removal of the democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, War on Want partner Codemuh, a women's collective, has been working to expose abuses in the country under the new government.

At least 10 people have died and hundreds have been arrested as a result of the interim government's response to the anti-coup protests. As the social and political conditions continue to deteriorate -- and with restrictions on access to media tightening -- War on Want is working together with its partner Codemuh to inform the UK public of what is really happening on the ground.

Codemuh recently revealed that sweatshop workers have been forced by factory owners to join in so-called "Marchas de la Paz" - Peace Walks - organised by the interim president Roberto Micheletti and financed by the business community in support of the military. Despite the majority of workers standing in opposition to the coup, fear of losing their jobs has forced them to attend pro-coup rallies two or three times every month. While workers were told they would be paid the daily minimum salary, Codemuh recently informed us that workers have received no payment. In fact, after attending demonstrations workers are forced to make up for the lost time by working an extra day.

Civil society movements gathered on 31 July in San Pedro Sula, the second biggest city in Honduras, to call for the peaceful restoration of democratic rule.  Codemuh has joined forces  with a range of other women-led organisations in the north of the country to create a platform called Women of the North. This group has been leading a grassroots struggle against the violence of the pro-coup government. The platform issued a statement at a gathering on 31 July, emphasising the following points:

  • Since the start of the coup on 28 June, a popular movement in opposition to unconstitutional removal of the President of Honduras has emerged. This movement believes that for Honduras to be a peaceful country, justice, equity and human rights must be respected. The movement does not favour any political party.
  • Women of the North defend the right of the Honduran people to decide their future.
  • The group recognises the courage of women and of the Honduran people who have over the last month peacefully resisted the coup.
  • Government repression is increasing daily. On 24 July, authorities left hundreds of citizens supporting the return of the ex-President Zelaya at the Nicaraguan border without food, water, shelter or access to medical assistance.
  • Women of the North calls for Honduran women and women all over the world to put pressure on international humanitarian organisations to support an end to the coup and to assess the human rights violations that are occurring.
  • Women of the North denounces the manipulation of information by national media and calls on Honduran women to boycott those TV and radio stations responsible for misinformation, including Radio América, HRN, Televicentro, Diario la Tribuna, La Prensa, El Heraldo and the American news network CNN. The group call on the media to expose the violence people are facing in their communities and to join the rallies against the coup.
  • Women of the North denounces the persecution of women by pro-coup forces, particularly the feminist leaders fronting the resistance in Tegucigalpa.
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Tags: honduras | overseas work | sweatshops & plantations


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New Primark store faces storm

05 August 2009, Press releases

Thursday, 13 August 2009 - Britain's most popular cheap fashion retailer Primark opens its second biggest UK store in Bristol

9.00-10.00 am Thursday, 13 August 2009
Primark, 1-27 The Horsefair, Broadmead shopping centre, Bristol BS1 3BB
Anti-sweatshop campaigners with radios stage public broadcast protest

7p an hour sweatshops row hits launch

The launch of Primark's second biggest UK store in Bristol next week will be marked by a demonstration over the conditions faced by 7p an hour workers making its clothes.

The Bristol-based campaign organisation Labour Behind the Label and the anti-poverty charity War on Want will lead the protest as the four-floor, 90,000 square feet shop opens on Thursday (13 August).

The protestors will compare Primark's financial success with workers in Bangladesh producing its clothes for as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks, well under a living wage.

Protestors will demonstrate, using radios broadcasts of garment workers' voices, sweatshop figures, protest songs and announcements.

The demonstrators will point to Primark's new store and 11 others launched in the past year, including its first outlets in Germany and Portugal.

They will also cite Primark's 21 per cent sales growth in the 16 weeks to 20 June and 10 per cent rise in profits to £122 million during the six months ending in February.

According to War on Want research, workers interviewed toiling at three Primark factories in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed for nutritious food, clean water, shelter, clothes, education, health care and transport.

The vast majority of employees lived in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities. Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid.

Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffered verbal and physical abuse as they struggled to meet unrealistic targets. Yet the Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised.

Ifat, who toils in a factory, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

Labour Behind Label spokesperson Anna McMullen said: "Primark sell clothes at rock bottom prices by driving down suppliers' costs, trapping garment workers in poverty. It must stop paying lip service to ethics and ensure decent wages and conditions for the people behind their success."

War on Want spokesperson Seb Klier said: "For years Primark has reassured shoppers its garment workers earn a living wage. Yet our research exposes these claims as nothing more than cynical attempts to mislead the public. It is high time the British government stopped this abuse."



  • Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728
  • Sam Maher, Labour Behind the Label (+44) (0)7517 516943
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Women workers confront South Africa’s president

03 August 2009, Latest news

Women workers have confronted South African President Jacob Zuma in a new protest over pay and conditions in the country's vineyards and fruit farms.

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Tags: food justice | overseas work | south africa


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25 years of struggle to improve the rights of Bangladeshi garment workers

03 August 2009, Latest news

"Ensure multinational corporations pay a fair price for Bangladeshi garments" was the slogan seen on banners at the recent rally organised by the National Garment Workers' Federation (NGWF) to celebrate the trade union's 25th anniversary.

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Thank you Womad revellers!

01 August 2009, Previous events

Yet another big thanks is due to everyone who signed our petition to stop the exploitation of sweatshop workers at Womad festival this year. Womad marked the third stop of our trolley tour this year, and as always people were engaged and keen on fighting global injustices.

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As the threat of civil war grows, many Honduran workers are forced to join pro-coup rallies

21 July 2009, Latest news

The Honduran women's collective Codemuh, a War on Want partner, has denounced the decline in living and working conditions in the aftermath of the coup staged by the military against President Manuel Zelaya.

In a recent statement Codemuh describes how the owners of many sweatshops, or maquilas, have forced workers to join in demonstrations organised by interim president Roberto Micheletti in support of the military.

According to Codemuh, garment factory employers have been providing a shuttle-bus service to transport workers from the factories to pro-military rallies. Many workers have been told that they would be fired if they refused to participate. Some employers are said to have offered 100 lempiras to workers for every demonstration they attend. The average daily wage for workers in the garment sector is L92.88, which is roughly £3.

While the interim president Roberto Micheletti has referred to the ouster of Zelaya as being nothing more than a "constitutional shift", Codemuh has been sharply critical of the coup, describing it as a "step back to the last century, a switch over from a democratic system to a proper dictatorship". Codemuh has called on the international community to exert pressure on Honduras to restore constitutional order. Oscar Arias, the president of Costa Rica who is acting as a mediator for the conflict, fears that a civil war may break out if negotiations between the two sides fail.

A women-led rights organisation based in Honduras, Codemuh works to empower female workers through training programmes and awareness raising. But since the coup it has been difficult for Codemuh to organise on behalf of labourers. Maria Luisa Regalado, Codemuh's coordinator, spoke about this difficulty: "The situation on the ground is really tense. Workers cannot go to our central office in San Pedro Sula because it's simply too dangerous."

Codemuh is not affiliated or partial towards any political party. Rather, the group is working towards the peaceful restoration of constitutional order and an end to the clampdown on free speech following the coup. Codemuh has reported that TV and radio broadcasts are being blocked, as well as the internet, limiting citizens' access to information. Many protestors have faced violent suppression from police forces, with one person having been killed and hundreds injured during pro-democracy rallies across the country.

Codemuh has been providing legal advice and support to those protestors who have been arrested and detained by the military. In the past week Codemuh has also participated in several demonstrations in favour of a peaceful resolution and against the suppression of dissent. War on Want stands behind Codemuh's efforts, and supports its call for a return to civilian rule and the guaranteed protection of the human rights of all Hondurans.

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